An Indepth Look at Cyberbullying and How it's Done

By Nadia Kovacs
The advancements in technology have made Internet communications a natural way of life. Especially to children, since this is a technology they were born into instead of adopting it, like adults have had to. Therefore, the aspect of being behind a “screen” gives the user a stronger sense of anonymity, and coupling it with the unknown effects that are caused to the child in the real world, children may not actually be aware of how deeply these bullying attacks can make a person feel in real life.

Cyberbullying is very much a real world issue, and a fairly new one. Since there are so many aspects to it the methods children use, the slang and strange acronyms they’ve made up, we want to break down all these aspects so you can have comprehensive knowledge about the subject, you can understand what is happening, what they’re saying and learn how to talk to them about it. 

Cyberbullying Tactics and Methods:
Instant Messaging/Text Messaging Harassment 

All phones have text messaging capabilities, and are probably the one feature your children are most familiar with. That being said, they may use this service to bully their victim by sending hateful or threatening messages. Instant messaging is virtually the same as text messaging to kids, so they will often utilize those methods via services such as GTalk, AOL Instant Messenger, Facebook Messenger and many more.

Another form of bullying via text messages is what is referred to as “text wars.” Text wars are when a bully recruits other kids to gang up on the victim by sending hundreds of text messages to the victim's cell phone all at once. If the victim doesn’t have unlimited text on their cell phone plan, then they could possibly be faced with a much larger cell phone bill and angry parents. In addition to the huge bill, these attacks can bombard a child 24/7, and these messages generally contain spiteful and hurtful messaging. Getting such a high frequency of negative messaging from a large group of kids can start to tear down a child’s self esteem fairly quickly.

Tip: Keep an eye on your child’s text messaging on your cell phone plan- if you see anything suspicious in the amount of text messages your child is receiving, you may want to check in with them to make sure everything is OK.

Impersonation

This tactic is used when the bully wants to pose as their victim, and harass other children under the victims’ identity. This can cause a rift between the child and their friends, provoking fights and doing damage to the healthy relationships your child is developing. 

A cyberbully will find out their targets online screen names, and may create a completely new account that is very similar to the child’s name. The name may have an additional an additional letter or missing one- the purpose is to change it as little as possible so the child’s contacts still think it is them.

Another way impersonation can be performed is if the bully obtains the child’s password. That can then be used to gain access to their email accounts, social accounts, instant messaging accounts and many more. This can be especially dangerous if your child uses the same password for all of their logins- it’s essentially a “master key” to your child’s online identity. 

Tip: Teach your children the basics about secure password use.

Once the bully has gained access to the child’s account, there are a variety of things they can do while impersonating your child. They can chat with other kids, and they may say mean things that can anger their friends or even strangers. Unfortunately, the recipient of the messages won't know it is not really that person they are talking to.In addition to spreading negative messages, the bully can also lock the child out of their own account by changing their password in the account settings.

Tip: Become informed on what social media platforms your children use. For websites such as Facebook and Twitter, request that your child “friend” you, and periodically check their pages for suspicious activity.Blogs Blogs are online journals with a social aspect to them. Kids can follow one another, comment on posts and share them. Generally, this is a fun way for children and teens to have healthy social conversations with other kids. However, kids will use these blogs to help aid them in damaging other kids' reputations, or expose their identity and personal information. Since these blogs are available for everyone to see online, some have the capability of tagging members of the blog community in posts, and they can be used to spread hateful messages about the victim that will pop up in other blog feeds for kids to see.

Tip: Just like social media platforms, find out if your child has one of these accounts, and periodically check the page.

Sending Pornography through text messages E-Mail, and Instant Messaging 


Cyber bullies will also attempt to get children in trouble with their parents. They can do this by signing kids up for marketing lists, especially to pornographic sites, that can be distributed through these platforms. Sometimes the child can receive hundreds, if not thousands of these messages and then their parents usually get involved, either blaming them thinking that they have been visiting porn sites, changing their phone numbers, or making them change their e-mail or IM address.

Tip: You can use parental monitoring software to get insight into what websites your child is visiting, and offer helpful tools that allow you to see your kids’ various online activities, either at a glance or get notified by email alerts.

One of the best ways to get ahead of cyberbullying is to be informed. Learning about the tactics employed and the ways they can be executed can open up a new realm of knowledge for you. This will make it easier to look out for the signs of cyberbullying, and be more knowledgeable on their level when starting conversations with them.


Nadia Kovacs


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